By Joseph Herron – In what was supposed to be his first title defense at the newly erected Barclays Center in front of his hometown fans of Brooklyn, New York, current WBA Welterweight Champion Paulie Malignaggi (32-4, 7 KOs) was forced to settle for a twelve round grudge match due to his opponent’s failure to meet the 147 pound weight requirement.
Former Lightweight pugilist Pablo Cesar Cano (25-2-1, 19 KOs) of Mexico weighed in at 147.75 at the official weigh in on Friday afternoon and lost his opportunity to challenge for the WBA title.
Despite missing out on the chance to become a Welterweight champion, the young 23 year old fighter made a very solid showing for himself against the much more experienced two division world champion.
Although Cano eventually lost a uniquely scored split decision to the Brooklyn born fighter, the tough Mexican body puncher gave Paulie everything he could handle, flooring the WBA Champ with a sharp right hand in the eleventh round of action.
But to begin the contest, the fight was all Malignaggi.
During the outset of the match, Paulie was boxing beautifully while landing his trademark jab at will to the body and head of the much younger fighter. In the second round, his razor like left hand carved a grotesque cut over the left eye of Cano, which seemed to bother the tough Mexican.
Even though the huge gash continued to bleed profusely through the first half of the fight, Cano wasn’t discouraged and started to close the distance with effective counter right hands to the body and head of Malignaggi throughout the mid to late rounds.
While ostensibly enjoying a comfortable lead going into the championship rounds of the contest, the noticeably bigger Cano was pressing the action and starting to time Paulie’s jab with overhand right’s to the head of the WBA Champ.
Toward the end of the eleventh, one of Paulie’s best rounds of the evening, Cano set up a perfectly timed right hand that surprised and floored the slippery veteran fighter. Although Malignaggi wasn’t badly hurt and easily beat the referee’s count, Pablo Cano scored a 10-8 round in his favor that would have otherwise been scored an easy 10-9 stanza for the crowd favorite.
Still feeling a sense of control going into the final round of action, Malignaggi continued to box and fired jabs to the body and head of Cano, while effectively stepping around the hard-nosed Mexican fighter.
Although Pablo continued to press the champ with various moments of success, the young challenger was never able to replicate another hard right hand to score a much needed knock down in the twelfth and final round.
When the final bell sounded, both fighters were hoisted up while holding their arms high, signifying a well deserved victory. In what was a very entertaining and competitive bout, the two fighters felt they had each worked hard enough to get the win.
The judges at ringside scored the match-up, 118-109 for Cano and 114-113 twice for Malignaggi. Even though Pablo Cano ended the bout with momentum swinging in his favor, the spirited battle was deemed a split decision for the hometown fighter and WBA Welterweight Champion.
After the fight, the proud Brooklynite spoke about judges’ verdict.
“I don’t know what that one scorecard was all about because I thought I controlled the entire fight. Even though Pablo was stronger than I thought he would be, I was the ring general throughout and I won the fight. I was a bit disappointed because I didn’t get to defend my title in front of my fans in my hometown, but it’s still an incredible feeling to be able to fight in front of my home crowd like this.”
Because Malignaggi currently fights under the Golden Boy promotional banner, he now has a lot of options at 147 pounds. He could land big money fights with Marcos Maidana, newly crowned IBF Welterweight Champ Devon Alexander, or former Junior Welterweight titlist Ricky Hatton, who will be making his comeback in November.